You might have seen we recently released the first episode of our open research podcast Opening Remarks. This is something we’ve been talking about doing for a while, but the transition to working from home sped things up a little bit. We now spend a lot of our time talking to each other on platforms that enable audio recording, so our feeling was this would be a good opportunity to put that technology to good use.
The idea behind Opening Remarks is simple – we want to have conversations with colleagues from across the University about open research; how open research is supported and facilitated, but also how researchers embed open principles in their practice. We want these conversations to be informal, interesting and informative.
Our intention is to record six episodes in this initial series, covering research data, open access, research communications, metrics and lots more besides. We’d been keen to hear from you about what you think we should be talking about, and we’d be even keener to hear from you if you’d like to be a guest! Come and talk to us about the open research that you do!
The first episode is already available on iTunes and, pending successful reviews, should be available on Stitcher, Spotify and Google’s podcast player in the next couple of days. Do give it a listen and let us know what you think! You can contact us on Twitter at @UoMLibResearch or email us at email@example.com.
Opening Remarks is hosted by Clare Liggins and Steve Carlton, two Research Services Librarians with very little broadcast experience but lots of enthusiasm.
I’ve been a Research Services Librarian at Manchester since January 2019, specialising in open access and research communications. Before I arrived at Manchester I’d been working in open access at several other institutions across the north west, including spells at the University of Liverpool and the University of Salford.
I’m interested in open research and its potential to help researchers reach broader audiences, and outside work I’m into professional wrestling, non-league football, the music of Arthur Russell and the Australian TV soap Neighbours. If I can find a way to talk about any of those things in the podcast, I will.
I’m a Research Services Librarian in the Research Data Management Team. I’ve been working at the University since January 2019 (Steve and I started on the same day) and am interested in anything to do with promoting the effective practice of Research Data Management, including training, as well as anything to do with Open Research.
My background is in Literature and writing, and before working at the University I was a Law Librarian. Due to my background, I am also interested in finding ways of working with these areas to adopt Research Data Management processes more widely.
In my spare time I enjoy reading books about feminist writers, spotting beautiful furniture in films from the 1950s, cooking recipes written by Nigel Slater and making up voices for my cat.
In this first episode of Opening Remarks, we talk about the perils of working from home in the summer, then invite our colleagues to talk to us about research data management for an hour. We’re joined by Chris, Eleanor and Bill to cover: the complexities of supporting research data management across disciplines, the joys of checking data management plans, and we talk up some of the services we offer. We also get a bit excited talking about the impending arrival of an institutional data repository.
Music by Mike Liggins
Artwork by Elizabeth Carlton
As this is my first post for the Library Research Plus blog I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Bill Ayres, the new Strategic Lead for Research Data Management based here in the Main Library since January 2020. I previously worked in IT for over fifteen years, most of them in HE, and then more lately as Research Data Manager at the University of Salford. I’m passionate about open research in general, and how this can connect researchers to foster cross-disciplinary projects and also have real-world benefits for people who may not otherwise have access to scholarly findings, outputs and data (especially data).
One important thing:
Usually, I would link out to various examples and case studies When I Talk About Data Repositories, but I’m going to be more general here. We are currently considering various options that will provide a fully-fledged data repository for the University – this is a very good thing – so in the interests of impartiality and fairness I won’t mention any specific platforms or technology suppliers.
One less important thing:
Apologies to Haruki Murakami for borrowing / mangling his book title for this post. It felt like a good idea when I thought of it late at night, a bit less so now (but I can’t think of a better one).
What good can a good institutional data repository do?
From a system perspective, and for the libraries that run the service, it provides a home for “curated” files, datasets and other resources that support research findings and publications. It shouldn’t be a dumping ground for everything, but a place for these important research assets that allows them to be stored, published and preserved.
With some funders mandating that data supporting publications be made available open access, and others recommending this, a data repository can also provide a straightforward option to ensure that compliance is covered.
It can be a powerful complementary system to the main institutional repository, one which can link to this in many ways and provide an alternative route for discovery and reuse of outputs, but also have its own character and profile.
There are clear and logical integrations that the repository can have with other useful systems e.g. a main institutional repository to connect outputs and data so that there are persistent links between them. There are opportunities there for reporting and metrics that examine ways people search for and discover data and published outputs, and how these may differ. There is also an opportunity to add the home institution branding to data and create or strengthen an association that may not occur if data is always hosted on external or publisher repositories. These benefits of integration can also extend outwards to researcher focused platforms e.g. ORCID, DataCite and similar.
And from a security and administration perspective, implementing an institutional data repository can help ensure that research data is safe, secure, covered by ethics and related policies, and also can be subject to review or checking where appropriate.
What I’ve talked about so far – a focus on integration, compliance, security, and review processes – is all great from the point of view of the institutional teams who “own” the data repository, and we need these to effectively manage and support it. But experience tells us that any system or service intended, primarily, for use by researchers and academics has to provide real-world benefits to them, and *crucially* be easy to use, or they will not utilise it or engage with the service offering it relates to. That adds up to a wasted investment for the institution, and a missed opportunity to give researchers a great platform.
So what should the institutional data repository be doing for its primary users, researchers?
Alongside the ease of use mentioned, it can fill a fundamental gap by providing a platform to publish data more quickly, easily and effectively than via other routes. For a long time efforts have been focused on publishing research outputs as the final part of the lifecycle. But a good data repository can facilitate a “just in time” ability to make data available to a wider audience throughout the research lifecycle. Adopting a light touch approach to curation of data deposits means that researchers can choose to share initial data, illustrate novel mid-project findings with relevant datasets, and looking past their standard data types they can share conference resources like posters, slides, or videos.
Talking about video, a data repository can provide an excellent place to store and showcase file types that can bring research to life: images, audio files, video and film clips, and in some cases there will be functionality that can preview or render 3D models and complex graphical files.
Increasingly data repositories also provide the ability for researchers to create collections of their own (or related) data outputs; a curated selection of datasets that links to similar open access resources created by others in the discipline can provide a resource with great potential for reuse or further investigation.
Researchers often need a place to store data for the longer term too. Funders and institutional policies may mandate a 5 year, 10 year, or even indefinite preservation requirement for research data. It can make good technical and practical sense to integrate digital preservation into a data repository, from straightforward bit-level preservation to more holistic solutions which will automatically convert file types and formats as applications and technology move on. An institutional data preservation option can give researchers peace of mind that their data will survive for the long term.
From a perspective beyond the home institution
As a final thought on this topic, I’d like to reflect back on the principles which are at the heart of open research and open data, in making that data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) and Open. Beyond the anticipated audience of researchers and academic investigators, a great data repository can be a powerful gateway for access and reuse by researchers in the developing world, healthcare professionals, or by members of the public. We often forget that the costs of journal subscriptions or other payment models to access outputs and data act as an impassable barrier to institutions or individuals that are unable to pay them. It’s our duty to make as wide a range of research data as possible freely and easily available as this can have benefits that go far beyond the original investigation or discipline.
Guest post by University of Manchester Library scholarship winner Chukwuma Ogbonnaya, PhD Student at the school of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, and early career Lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo in Abakaliki, Nigeria.
OpenCon is a unique conference because it brings Librarians, Publishers, Civil society organisations, Policy makers, Government agencies, Post-doctoral, Doctoral and Undergraduate students, across the globe together. These participants think, discuss, engage and co-create solutions to promote open philosophies. OpenCon2018, which was held at York University, Toronto, Canada between 1-4 November 2018, was my first Opencon attendance. I applied to attend the Berlin conference in 2017 but unfortunately was not selected. When I saw the notification for OpenCon2018 from The University of Manchester Library, I quickly applied because I wanted to be involved in open research based on my findings during the last application. I was pleasantly surprised when I was announced the winner and that was the beginning of a chain reaction of surprises.
Immediately the announcement was made, I was pleased and I did not waste time to share the news with my family, friends and my home University in Nigeria through the Vice-Chancellor (Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba). I quickly started my visa application the following day. It can be time-consuming and stressful for researchers from African countries and the Global South to obtain visas to travel to conferences, which is a real problem as it prevents researchers from these countries participating in important discussions – this tweet by Zaid Alyafeai sums up the problem. I was apprehensive, especially given the tight turnaround time – will it be possible to obtain a Canadian visa in three days for a Nigerian, I pondered? Now, here is the second surprise. I was given a multiple entry Canadian visa that will expire in 2022. What this means for me is that I can easily apply for conferences in Canada to present my research as well as listen to experts in my field. This has been made possible by the OpenCon2018 award.
The third pleasant surprise was the design and programming of OpenCon2018. The programme was so unique with collaborative and engaging sessions. It was highly participatory and everybody has multiple choices of what activity/topic/theme to participate in. There were discussion panels comprising presenters with practical experiences and those at the early stage of their career.
My favourite panel was “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” because it was simply outstanding. They focused on the need to include everyone in the emerging open infrastructure designs irrespective of gender, race, country and region. It was obvious that allowing people to have access to the knowledge infrastructure would empower them to contribute to the development of the wider society. Associate Professor Leslie Chan really made a long lasting impression on me during the panel discussion. He described a situation where open science should not just translate into an “automation of knowledge inequality” but should indeed be a “commitment to think critically and to push the boundaries to imagine a more inclusive, equitable and radical future”.
I want to share my experiences in some of the activities I participated in during the conference:
STORY CIRCLE AND STORY OF SELF
OpenCon2018 believes that “stories are at the core of how we identify and express ourselves, interpret and shape our worlds, and connect with others”. The intention of story circle was to create a safe space where participants can tell a small group of people about themselves as well as share their thoughts on what open science means to them. No comments or questions are expected to follow beyond highlighting what brought the participant to OpenCon2018. For me, it was good that it came quite early in the conference because it provided an opportunity for me to start networking as well as gaining insights into how others perceive open access.
DESIGN THINKING WORKSHOPS I & II
I participated in the Europe workshop. The interactive workshop was to inspire contextual culture change towards a more open, diverse, inclusive and equitable research and education system. We addressed the question of how we might, as open advocates, congratulate our peers on non-open successes while staying true to our values. Within the group, we were divided into clusters based on our current activities/work. I was in a PhD and Post-Doctoral group and we explored how design thinking can be used to understand, design and communicate Open Access solutions for PhD students. The process involves defining the problems based on an understanding of the system, empathising with a typical PhD student based on how they think and feel, brainstorming and ideating solutions, prototyping the solution, testing it and implementing it in the real world. The videos and slides were used for a systematic analysis of the personhood of a typical PhD student. Current experiences and future aspirations of a PhD student were captured in order to reveal where and how interventions can be implemented to help PhD students understand how Open Access can support their current and future career development. The skills and learning acquired from the design thinking workshop are transferable and I will be applying it in designing human-centred systems within my research projects in the future.
PUBLISHING WITH OPEN ACCESS JOURNALS (UNCONFERENCE SESSION)
The unconference session is a hands-on session in which a speaker lead participants through exploring critical questions on the topic. The session focused on how to identify predatory journals and legitimate Open Access journals. It was a discussion session with rich experience-sharing on how fake Open Access publishers can be identified and avoided. It was apparent that Open Access publications can contribute to making a researcher’s work more available, visible and accessible whilst giving the researcher more control on how and who can use their work. When a scholar’s work becomes accessible, it can increase citation, and such recognition can support funding applications to carry out further work. However, falling prey to fake/predatory Open Access publishers could be disastrous. Such predatory journals lack strong peer review mechanisms and reputation within the research community. Consequently, the time and money spent on undertaking quality research could be lost when the wrong choice of journal is made. The degree of openness of Open Access journals were discussed including types of Open Access copyrights. Finally, the presenter (Vrushali) shared how DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals), which indexes and provides access to peer-reviewed Open Access journals, can assist researchers identify recognised Open Access journals. In summary, the session was very informative and I would use the strategies discussed to make informed choices in the future, as well as guiding others.
DITCHING JOURNAL IMPACT FACTORS AND JOURNAL BLACKLISTS FOR GOOD (UNCONFERENCE SESSION)
The unconference session on spotting predatory journals influenced my choice of the discussion group. The discussion group led by Emma Molls focused on how impact factor metrics play a role in influencing researchers to publish in traditional journals instead of Open Access journals. The fundamental question was “how might we rethink journal quality in a way that it benefits authors, editors, and librarians without duplicating the faults of the past?” A critical discussion and questioning on whether impact factor captures the ideals of quality and impact were raised. For instance, a question on whether the impact factor of a journal should be equated to the impact factor of an article was raised. We also explored other possible metrics which can act as a measure of the impact of an article including citation, reproducibility, transparency and significance. We then considered the incentives that could motivate scholars to consider Open Access publishing. These include the recognition system in the research community/workplace and sponsors’/funders’ influence on where outputs should be published, among other factors.
This activity of the OpenCon2018 is the creativity and innovation session where new ideas and organisations are birthed through collaboration and networking. Individuals are encouraged to propose ideas no matter how sketchy they might be! Participants interested in a proposed idea come together and use their diverse skills to develop the idea and create a possible network that can allow them to continue collaborating on the idea after the conference. My group started developing a platform that can bring together those who have good ideas but cannot develop them due to lack of resources or expertise and those who can transform the ideas into reality. We applied a design thinking approach in seeking a solution. Afterwards, we set up a Whatsapp group to continue working on the idea. Members are from UK, Canada, Germany, Jordan and Tanzania and we held a Skype discussion on the project in early December 2018 to review progress on the assigned tasks at the conference.
OpenCon2018 may have come and gone but one thing is certain – it has opened a new world of possibilities for me in becoming an advocate for Open Access, open research, open data, open education, open government and indeed open philosophy. This was what I wanted and I now have it! I’m looking forward to working with The University of Manchester Library to contribute to the promotion of the Open philosophy across the University. My experience will also be promoted in my other institution, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Nigeria after I complete my PhD studies at Manchester.
Finally, I look forward to contributing towards supporting and volunteering with communities/organisations/institutions seeking to build tools, processes, systems and infrastructures that promote open philosophy to achieve an inclusive, fair, participatory and equitable system. I believe that applied open principles can empower people to bring on board their professional and personal diversities and uniqueness into the building blocks of a better society we all desire.
When we’re planning for Open Access (OA) Week we reflect on where we’ve got to in our services, both in the delivery and the level of researcher engagement with OA.
It’s always rewarding for us to remember how well established our service now is and the important part we play in increasing access to the University’s research and, of course, funder compliance. This year we worked with colleagues in the University’s Global Development Institute to showcase their OA research, which aligns with the theme of OA Week 2018, and highlighted our top 5 most accessed theses.
Levels of engagement with OA at the University are high – while it’s undoubtedly true that this is related to funder policies , it’s also partly because our services are designed to make the process easy for authors. OA isn’t always easy for researchers to understand but our process is, and it prompts conversations with us about what to do, and the reasons why, all year round. Our webpages underpin our current processes but now – we’ve just launched new-look webpages – also look ahead, encouraging and supporting engagement with Open Research more broadly.
What I’ve been reminded of as we’ve been preparing for OA Week is that however well we’re doing at the moment, there are still challenges to tackle. And I’m not referring to Plan S.
Working in an Open Access service
OA teams have formed and grown over the past 5 years. Most of us learned on the job and we’re now training the new colleagues on the job. I’m part of a national group considering how best to prepare the next generation of people for work in this area. One way we’re doing this is by inviting staff already working in this area to share their experiences.
We often receive applications for our vacancies that suggest a lack of understanding about the nature of the roles so I’ve asked Lucy May and Olivia Rye from our team to talk about what it means to work in a role with a strong focus on Gold OA at a large research-intensive university.
A further challenge is OA monographs and book chapters. We really need greater clarity on publisher processes as they relate to OA for these output types. Over the past week we’ve been reviewing the status of 14 payments we arranged for our School of Arts, Languages and Cultures from our 2017-18 institutional OA fund (last payment made in early September), totalling just over £61,000. Of these, 6 outputs are not yet OA. Another output, a monograph, is not flagged as OA on the publisher’s page. This may be an oversight, but it’s telling of developments still needed – the publisher of this book told the author that they don’t have processes in place for this yet.
Of the 6 outputs, two were book chapters, from a commercial publisher that I assume has a process, because they have a webpage offering OA for chapters as an option, but although I’ve had an apology I’ve not yet had confirmation of when the chapters will be OA. One was an article from a US University Press – I had a fast response and apology but have been told it will take at at least a week for the article to be made OA.
The 3 remaining outputs are monographs. From the responses I’ve had I’m understanding that there’s a delay in converting a monograph to OA once a Book Processing Charge is made – what I’ve yet to learn is how long this is likely to be. We can’t have meaningful discussions with authors without this kind of information and the lack of publisher procedures affects confidence in engagement with OA.
So, this is now on my To Do list both here at Manchester and for the RLUK Open Access Publisher Processes group. By the time we’re planning OA Week activities next year, and reflecting on how far we’ve come, I’m determined we’ll have answers.
Awareness of Open Access (OA) and Open Data have increased substantially over the last few years, with new mandates and funder policies increasing the levels of OA at The University of Manchester for 2016-17 to 75%. Whilst this is a huge improvement on historic levels of approximately 10% Green OA, the emphasis on compliance with funder requirements has meant that many of the underlying reasons for working openly can be forgotten, presenting a risk that OA starts to be seen as another box to tick. For Open Research to become the norm across academia, major cultural change is required, and most researchers require strong incentives to make that change. In order to help counter the focus on compliance the Library is hosting an Open Research Forum at the Contact Theatre on Thursday 26 October, as part of Open Access Week 2017.
In Classical times the forum was a place where news was exchanged and ideas thrashed out, and it is that spirit of open debate which we are hoping to capture through the Open Research Forum. We have a great selection of researchers lined up from across the University who will be speaking about the issues, challenges and benefits of openness, and what it means to be an ‘open researcher’. In keeping with Open Access Week 2017, the theme for the event is ‘Open in order to…’, focusing on the practical outcomes of working openly. Topics include preprints, OA as part of wider public engagement, and newly emerging data labs which actively re-use data created by other researchers.
The Library as a Broker
Whilst the Library is coordinating the event it will be researcher-led and -focused with a series of slide-free, story-based talks from academics complemented with interactive activities and discussion. Our speakers represent a range of disciplines and we hope to capitalise on the Library being a ‘neutral’ space on campus to encourage exchange from across the Schools. Speakers and participants are encouraged to be honest about their experiences with, and ideas about the future of, open research. We hope that by bringing researchers together to focus on open research without reference to mandates or policies we can help facilitate a more inspiring and substantive discussion on the opportunities and consequences created by researching in an open manner.
Learning from each other
As service providers in a central cultural institution, it’s easy to get lost in the mechanics of how to make research open and in our enthusiasm for this new mode of scholarly communication, and lose sight of how these changes affect researchers’ day to day lives. Thus, as organisers we are hoping to learn lots from our speakers so we can make our services more relevant. The speakers are all actively ‘open researchers’ in different ways so we hope that other researchers can learn from their example and be inspired.
We’ve now assessed all applications for our sponsored OpenCon 2017 place and are pleased to announce that the successful applicant is Rachael Ainsworth. Rachael is a Research Associate in the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Open Science Champion for the Interferometry Centre of Excellence at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. In this role she promotes, advocates and organises events relating to open science in astronomy but she’s also behind the creation of the Manchester branch of XX+Data – a networking community for women who work with or love data – and been selected as a Mozilla Open Leader and will receive mentorship and training through the Mozilla Network on a project designed to advance open research.
Her project, ‘Resources for Open Science in Astronomy’ (ROSA), aims to collaboratively compile and tailor open science best practices from around the web into a kit for astronomers to work openly from proposal to publication, and will equip senior researches with a single resource so that they can mentor the next generation of open science practitioners . The project will also produce a general open science resource toolkit to encourage adaptation and reuse for any field of research, which will benefit all departments of the University.
Rachael was keen to attend OpenCon because she believes that open and reproducible research is fundamental to the scientific method and that attendance will aid her development: “OpenCon will make me a more confident advocate and allow me to disseminate these tools more effectively within my department and throughout the University in order to empower other researchers with the skills to work openly.”
We look forward to hearing more from Rachael as part our Open Access Week activities (on which, more soon!) and when she shares her OpenCon experience in a blog post later in the year. We also look forward to engaging more with the applicants who weren’t successful on this occasion, facilitating further opportunities to bring advocates of open research together. We’re feeling quite excited about the energy and passion we sensed in all our applicants and we expect them all to make progress in the quest for open!
We’re excited to be sponsoring a University of Manchester PhD student or early career researcher with a passion for Open Research to attend OpenCon 2017 in Berlin, from 11th-13th November.
OpenCon is organised by SPARC, the Right to Research Coalition and a global conference committee. The event brings together early career researchers and scholars from around the world in a positive and supportive environment (see Code of Conduct) to showcase projects, discuss issues and explore ways to advance Open Access, Open Data and Open Education.
Attendees learn more about Open Research issues, develop critical skills, contribute to collaborative projects and meet members of a growing global community advocating for a more open system of sharing the world’s information.
The travel scholarship covers the cost of the registration fee, flight and shared accommodation. The University Library will reimburse the cost of sundries not covered by the scholarship. In return we’ll ask the successful applicant to contribute to one of the Library’s upcoming Open Research events and write up their conference experience in a short report for our blog.
To apply, please submit answers to the following questions by email, using the Subject header ‘OpenCon Application’, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Monday 25th September 2017.
Why are you interested in OpenCon?
What are your ideas for advancing Open Research?
How will attending OpenCon help you advance Open Research at the University of Manchester?
We’ll review applications and contact all candidates by the end of September.